'Mad Men' Recap: Truth in Advertising - Rolling Stone
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‘Mad Men’ Recap: Truth in Advertising

SCDP lands the Jaguar account – at an enormous cost

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Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris on 'Mad Men.'

Jordin Althaus/AMC

I have a question for Matthew Weiner and his co-writer, Semi Chellas. Were they inspired by the movie Crazy People for this week’s Mad Men episode, “The Other Woman”? If so, then they were able to take the humor from an underrated comedy and use it to make a brilliant commentary on the sexualization of advertising – and the kind of lows into which it can sink.

For those not familiar with the 1990 film, Dudley Moore plays an ad man committed to an insane asylum after writing a slew of brutally honest campaigns. One of his slogans is “Jaguar: For Men Who’d Like Hand Jobs from Beautiful Women They Hardly Know.” Considering that SCDP’s early versions of their Jaguar pitch featured the word “mistress,” and that much of the plot revolved around prostituting Joan to win over one of the car company’s bigwigs, I’d say that Moore’s character was right on the money. 

Taking One for the Team

From the moment Lane brought Jaguar into SCDP’s purview, all of the agency’s dealings with the British automobile firm have had an element of sleaziness (remember the Jaguar rep whose penchant for hookers left him with “chewing gum on his pew-biss“?). But the glamour of Jaguar continues to captivate SCDP’s partners, so much so that they’re willing to sell out one of their own to close the deal. It’s early 1967, and Pete and Ken are wining and dining Herb Rennet, their latest Jaguar contact. Balding, pudgy and middle-aged, Herb gets right to the point: SCDP will be Jaguar’s new advertising firm if he can have one night with Joan.

Self-appointed pimp Pete audaciously presents the indecent proposal to Joan the next morning, comparing her to Cleopatra and excusing it as an “act of desperation.” He is at his smarmy best here, and surprisingly enough seamlessly fits into this newfound role, mixing just the right amount of charm and calculating business acumen to get what he’s after. But he’s got nothing on Joan, who doesn’t flat-out refuse, although she chooses her words very carefully: “I don’t think you could afford it.” A meeting of the partners follows, all of whom are disgusted with Pete’s proposition. Don is the most offended – not surprising after last week’s episode – so he removes himself from the discussion. Only problem with that is it allows Pete to persuade Roger (why didn’t he storm out?), Bert and Lane to reluctantly agree to whore out their director of agency operations for the price of $50,000.

But Lane knows the company does not have that kind of spare cash, especially after he embezzled around $8,000 and took out a $50,000 line of credit from the bank last week. So he has a sit-down with an already livid Joan – and advises her instead to request a partnership and a five percent stake in the company. It will not only give her more power than any other woman at SCDP, but it will ensure financial comfort for her and Kevin. Of course, that’s only if Lane’s money mismanagement doesn’t cause SCDP to go belly-up.

Joan presents her demands to her pi – er, to Pete, and everything begins to fall into place. Even Michael Ginsberg impresses Don by nailing the Jaguar tagline: “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” It resonates with Don because he’s conflicted over the possibility of Megan going to Boston for three months to do a play (whether or not she got the part remains uncertain). But once Pete informs Don that Joan is going through with the one-night stand, for the price of a partnership, Don is sickened, and he heads over to Joan’s apartment to talk her out of it. He tells her sleeping with Rennet isn’t worth a big client, and she seems relieved, gently touching Don’s cheek in gratitude.

But it isn’t relief. The following day, Don gives yet another one of his rousing speeches to Jaguar, his pitch intercut with Joan arriving at Rennet’s hotel room, curvaceous in a tight black dress. The way Don describes a Jaguar, it’s as if he’s describing Joan, who has been reduced to a beautiful object men play with to feel powerful – not unlike the car he’s advertising: “If they weren’t beyond our reach and a little out of our control, would we love them like we do?” It’s no secret that Joan knows how to use her beauty to her advantage, but in this one scene, never before has it backfired so miserably. The way Rennet unceremoniously kicks her out of bed after having his way with her would make anybody’s skin crawl. 

Once she’s back in her apartment, undressing and silently feeling remorse over her actions, Joan’s mother, Gail, says Don is there to see her. As a strangely familiar scene unfolds, it becomes clear that by the time Don visited Joan to implore her not to sleep with Rennet he was too late. No wonder she was anxious to take a shower.

The next morning the partners – now including Joan – get the news that Jaguar has selected SCDP as their advertising firm.

What’s Your Number?

I’d draw the line at being denied a lobster lunch too.

Peggy‘s story line wasn’t terribly complicated this episode. Fed up at constantly being passed over by Don, she scored herself a much better job at a rival firm. Since Elisabeth Moss is quite clearly not going anywhere, it just remains to be seen how long it’s going to take for Don to woo her back to SCDP (it happened with Joan back in Season Three). Until then, Peggy Olson will be the new copy chief at Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, with a worthy salary to match.

1967 hasn’t been too great for Peggy so far. In addition to being kept off of the Jaguar campaign (which included catered lobster lunches), Peggy was overlooked in favor of Michael to work on the Chevalier Blanc cologne account. Her frustration is understandable – she sold Chevalier Blanc a pitch on the spot, yet Don gave the job to SCDP’s idiot savant instead. A friendly lunch with her old Sterling Cooper colleague Freddy Rumsen (I’m sensing a pattern here – maybe we’ll see Sal Romano next week?) turns Peggy on to the idea of leaving SCDP, and while she’s initially hesitant, she gathers up the courage to take a meeting with Don’s nemesis, Ted Chaough. Aside from the fact that Ted would love to poach any of Don’s people, he hires Peggy at a salary that’s $1,000 more than her asking price, because he knows he’s getting the best in the business, and he doesn’t hesitate to tell her so.

While Peggy had begun to make inroads with Don last season, especially in “The Suitcase,” he still refused to see her as his equal, so much so that she had no choice but to leave. He freely admits that he had been taking her for granted, but his apologies and offers of a raise were yet another case of too little, too late. In an incredibly emotional scene, Peggy thanks Don for being her “mentor” and “champion,” but she’s going to CGC, and there’s no amount of money he can offer to make her stay. The fact that she’s going to work for Ted Chaough just drives the message home that Don didn’t appreciate her when she was around, and now he’s lost the best member of his creative team. But all the anger in the world can’t trump the admiration Don has for his colleague, and when she extends her hand, he presses his lips to it and holds them there for a long time, while Peggy fights back tears. She doesn’t say goodbye to anyone else and smiles as the elevator doors open. Her future looks bright as the opening riff to the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” rings out.

Wrap-Up: The big unanswered question is, how much does Joan truly regret prostituting herself for the sake of the company? The use of her feminine wiles have garnered her a more powerful position than Peggy could ever dream of, and even better, her two biggest rivals (Megan and Peggy) have left the agency. Peggy may have scored a major coup at CGC, but will she always play second fiddle to Joan because she lacks her sex appeal?

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